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  Multichannel technologies combat the cannibalisation of physical stores sales by online as a result of rapid smartphone adoption, writes Retail Technology editor, Miya Knights

IT vendors gathered for the annual US National Retail Federation's 'Retail Big Show' in New York today were keen to show off products to help stem any loss of store-based sales to competitors.


They were responding to recent surveys suggesting as many as 40% of shoppers last Christmas bought elsewhere as a direct result of visiting a store to evaluate a product and then comparing it against competitors online and on the High Street via their smart mobile phone or tablet devices.


Stemming store losses to online 


Many, including the likes of Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, were keen to showcase technologies to increase instore conversions and combat the loss of sales to others that offer a cheaper or more convenient experience.


"Retail is more competitive than ever," said Brendan O'Meara of Microsoft's worldwide retail division. "Mobile adoption has empowered the consumer and put so much more information at their fingertips. Often this means traditional retailers are at a disadvantage because consumers know more about their products when they visit a store than the retailer's sales associates do."


Microsoft was on hand to showcase a number of new products designed to optimise the alignment of instore customer experiences with a retailer's own online channels or multichannel or pureplay rivals. 


The IT giant is working with mobile partner Motorola to roll out a number of new initiatives for Home Depot. Using the latest, touch-enabled successor to the PoS Ready operating system (OS) Windows Embedded 8 Industry, John Doyle, Microsoft Windows Embedded product management director, said the US do-it-yourself chain would "empower staff to cross and upsell across store and online inventory".


Empowering store staff to engage


Lee Gill, vice president of retail strategy for JDA Software, said retailers cannot afford to ignore the showrooming effect. "They need instore engagement tools, to encourage store associates to enter into a negotiation with customers that is tailored to their preferences and sales value," he said.


JDA at NRF 2013 released a 'customer engagement' tool designed to join customer touchpoints with inventory information to match the most profitable fulfilment method with individual preferences and requirements. 


The third annual Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) study, titled “Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers,” echoed Gill's sentiments in its finding that 78% of all US shoppers used the internet to research and purchase products and services.


Lisa Fretwell, Cisco senior director of IBSG, retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) told Retail Technology, that today's increasingly digital shopper is more demanding than ever, with at least 60% now expecting more value in their shopping experience. 


Of these shoppers, 53% expect greater price visibility, 37% want easier ways to find products, and 39% desire faster or easier way to purchase products. "The future for the store has to extend from just browsing, right through buying online and picking up instore," Fretwell said.


Introducing digital retail interactivity 


Intel has been working with the likes of Adidas and McCormick, which owns the Schwartz herbs and spices brand in the UK among others internationally, to adapt their bricks-and-mortar stores as 'digital destinations' by installing the latest, cutting-edge instore and interactive technologies to increase dwell time, sales conversion and uplift.


Alex Flores, Intel product marketing manager, said:  "Stores aren't going to disappear. It's all about the strategic merging of physical and digital."


To find out more about the retailers highlighted for their showrooming successes at this year's NRF, subscribe to receive the next, January/February 2013 issue of Retail Technology magazine.


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